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Three counties join forces for growth deal

Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire and Northamptonshire county councils are to join forces to seek devolved powers to boost economic growth.

A report to be heard before Oxfordshire County Council’s cabinet this week will press government to “break down barriers” to bring increased prosperity to the region.

The counties, who call themselves “England’s Economic Heartland”, are seeking a five-year growth deal, unifying the various funding streams available for strategic projects and economic growth.

They claim the deal could help boost growth by £9bn each year, creating at least 135,000 new jobs by 2020.

The proposal follows last December’s announcement by the authorities that they would seek a joint devolution deal.

Cllr Ian Hudspeth, leader of Oxfordshire County Council, said: “As the name suggests, England’s Economic Heartland is one of the powerhouses of the UK economy. It is our belief that we can further enhance our competitiveness in global markets with this innovative new model, and in the process help contribute to the UK being the most prosperous major economy.

“We want to grow the area’s reputation as a serious destination for new economy industries and their employees, families and supply chains.

“What England’s Economic Heartland does is provide a way which enables economies of scale and efficiencies to be realised. However it also ensures that priorities are driven by locally identified needs and opportunities.”

The authorities’ stress that it is not a merger, saying that while they will work together on strategic issues each authority will “be a distinct entity and they will retain their roles and responsibilities in local issues”.

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